Greg knew his thinking was impaired. He was halfway back to his father’s house, with Annie in the passenger seat nursing two doggy bags. And it meant that he was also going to have to run her back into town later. She might have some vague plan about staying over, but if she did, this was the worst possible way to go about it.
“It’s real close to the road now,” Annie told him. “I saw on the news there was one in Florida, marching through some sugar plantation. It was on track to go between two of the houses on the farm, but the alien budded about three days before. Split into two. The two of them set off on different directions, one heading for each house. Craziness.”
Greg watched the thing as they drew nearer. There were still cars parked on the shoulder. It was definitely closer to the highway than when he’d arrived.
“Nobody tried to stop them?” he said.
“Sure. There was footage of a farmhand with some kind of sugar machine, kind of like a bulldozer, trying to push one of them to the side. Even the budded ones are too big to budge. Their tendrils dig down deep. And the army and all what have you, they’re busy with the really big ones.”
Greg swung the car into his father’s driveway and pulled up near the old pickup and stopped. His father was on the veranda with the telescope. Greg climbed out and walked over.
“Company,” his father said.
“You remember Annie?” Greg said. “I brought her over to talk some sense into you.”
“Hey,” Annie said. “I brought wings.” She held up the bag.
“Wings.” Greg’s father smiled down at her. “I could go for some wings. You bet.”
“They’re just leftovers, really.”
“I’m not fussy.”
Inside his father arranged the wings on a plate and nuked them. In moments they were crispy hot again. “So,” he said, setting the plate on the table. “Going to talk some sense into me, huh? People have been trying that for decades.”
Annie laughed. She took one of the wings, and his father took one too. Greg just sat. He didn’t like the way his father looked at Annie. Not quite a leer, but it was at least flirtatious. He was too old and sick to behave like that.
“I figure you’ve got plenty more life in you,” Annie said. “I don’t understand this attachment to the land. There was a whole long period that you didn’t even live here.”
“That’s right. And there’s two things. First, what I’ve got is terminal. I don’t have plenty more life in me. Unless I let them experiment and, you know, quite frankly I don’t have the energy for that.”
“Experiment?” Greg said. “There are other treatments?”